Review: I TAKE YOUR HAND IN MINE... at Taffety Punk

By: Dec. 12, 2019

Review: I TAKE YOUR HAND IN MINE... at Taffety Punk Anton Chekhov wrote 16 plays in his lifetime, and one of them was not "I Take Your Hand in Mine..." But he used that tender line in many of the hundreds of letters he wrote over six years to his wife Olga Knipper.

Their correspondence - he wrote largely in Yalta; she remained an actress in Moscow, where they first met - is the basis of Carol Rocamora's play "I Take Your Hand in Mine...," currently in a brief run at Taffety Punk.

It comes to D.C. courtesy a pair of Canadians. Richard Sheridan Willis, artistic director of the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival in Prescott, Ontario, plays the troubled Russian writer. From the beginning, as he enters wordlessly from the back of the room, one can catch his world-weary mood through his sad eyes and wan smile. He's been to Taffety Punk's stage at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop before, bringing his one-man "Strolling Player" there in 2014.

He's joined by Rena Polley, who is so steeped in subject at hand, she not only founded the Chekhov Collective, where she starred in "The Seagull" and "The Cherry Orchard," but started page to stage theatrical readings of Chekhov short stories. She also worked for 19 years with the Michael Chekhov Association, named after the actor who was nephew of the writer (and was featured in Hitchcock's "Spellbound"). And Polley co-founded Michael Chekhov Canada, and worked with the last living student of Michael Chekhov.

That would be enough to qualify her of course, but she also brings a warmth and intensity to the role of the actress smitten by the writer. Olga was also a woman torn - she wanted to be with him, but yearned to be part of any new play he'd be able to write in Yalta that she could perform with Konstantin Stanisavski's Moscow Art Theatre

Rocamora's play ekes out the poetics of their correspondence but also leaves in much of the mundane: the weather, or how one is feeling. Health is relevant - Chekhov died of tuberculosis at 44; she'd go on to live until 90. And when she passed in 1959, she had never remarried.

And they talk of art. Chekhov is furious at Stanislavsky's dramatic interpretation of "The Cherry Tree," for example. "It's a comedy!" he yells, slamming on the wall that echoes the punk rock roots of the hosting theater.

A third Canadian in the mix is director Dmitry Zhukovsky who keeps things on the stage simple with a quartet of chairs and a lamp. And as richly literary as the subject matter is, he states "we wanted to be truthful to Chekhov's poetics, where the most important and interesting things happen not in the words but between them." Zhukovsky was on hand opening night, with a bouquet to deliver to the luminous Polley

The 120-year-old correspondence between Chekhov and Knipper are certainly worthy of a romantic two-hander, and Rocamora's play moves from the characters narrating the story and setting the scene to jumping seamlessly into it, presumably quoting the character's actual words. Short of seeing a major Chekhov play, this is a good way get close to the beloved Russian playwright.

Running time: About 90 minutes, no intermission.

Photo credit: Richard Sheridan Willis and Rena Polley in "I Take Your Hand in Mine." Photo by Miriana Mitrovich.

"I Take Your Hand in Mine..." continues through Dec. 13 at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, 545 7th St SE. Tickets available online.


Review: MULAN at Opera House/Kennedy Center Photo
Review: MULAN at Opera House/Kennedy Center

What did our critic think of MULAN at Opera House/Kennedy Center?

QUARTETTO DI CREMONA Brings To US Tour To Carnegie Hall This October Photo
QUARTETTO DI CREMONA Brings To US Tour To Carnegie Hall This October

On Thursday, October 26 at 7:30 pm, Quartetto di Cremona, Italy's preeminent string quartet, make their Carnegie Hall debut as part of a five-city US tour, with performances in Santa Monica, Kansas City, Philadelphia and New Haven.  

Washington National Opera Presents Gounods ROMEO & JULIET, November 4–18 Photo
Washington National Opera Presents Gounod's ROMEO & JULIET, November 4–18

Washington National Opera presents Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet, directed by Simon Godwin and starring Adam Smith and Rosa Feola.

Pianist Chris ORiley to Perform Radiohead & Bach at the Kennedy Center in November Photo
Pianist Chris O'Riley to Perform Radiohead & Bach at the Kennedy Center in November

Pianist Chris O'Riley performs Radiohead & Bach at Kennedy Center, bridging classical and popular music. Get event and ticket information here!

From This Author - Roger Catlin

Roger Catlin, a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, is a Washington D.C.-based arts writer whose work appears regularly in and AARP the Magazine. He has a... Roger Catlin">(read more about this author)


#repshow# in[i]# Scorched
ExPats Theatre (9/23-10/15)Tracker
#repshow# in[i]# XIX Fuego Flamenco Festival: Lo Preciso
GALA Hispanic Theatre (11/09-11/12)
#repshow# in[i]# CQ Live Comedy Showcase
Opera House at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (10/06-10/06)
#repshow# in[i]# Werewolf by Night: Film with Live Orchestra
Concert Hall at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (10/21-10/21)
#repshow# in[i]# The Wiz
The National Theatre (10/24-10/29)
#repshow# in[i]# Keyboard Conversations® with Jeffrey Siegel: Festive French Fare
Center for the Arts at George Mason University (11/26-11/26)
#repshow# in[i]# Tempestuous Elements
Arena Stage (2/16-3/17)
#repshow# in[i]# Linda Eder
The Barns At Wolf Trap (2/01-2/01)
#repshow# in[i]# Evita
Shakespeare Theatre Company (9/05-10/15)
#repshow# in[i]# Picasso
GALA Hispanic Theatre (10/14-10/21)

Recommended For You